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Getting the truck out at Mt Camel
To celebrate National Volunteer Week (13-19 May), CFA is saying “thanks a million” to its volunteers, families and employers for everything they do. This week we will feature a series of profile stories to highlight the great work and diversity of our volunteer members.
A small community relies heavily on its CFA brigade, and a small brigade relies heavily on its captain. It’s fortunate that Captain Mick Hall from Mt Camel brigade has a supportive employer who’s right behind his volunteering, recognising that an emergency isn’t just conveniently called in outside business hours.
Mick is a warehouse supervisor with Laminex Group, working with just five others in their Bendigo facility. He’s been with his brigade for 20 years, a captain for 10 years and a Laminex employee for 21 years. Clearly the two roles have worked hand in hand.
“Laminex has branches in rural centres all around Australia so they have that investment and an understanding of rural issues,” says Mick. “My boss has always been really positive about my CFA role. They never have a problem paying me for the time I’m away volunteering. It’s not a company policy as much as a handshake deal.
“I’ve been gone for up to a week fighting fires in the northeast and Sydney and got nothing but encouragement from work.”
The result for Laminex is a loyal employee who doesn’t cast off his work responsibilities lightly.
“I always have the CFA pager with me,” explains Mick, “and I’ll liaise with my brigade if we get paged. It’s 50 kilometres home. Do I have to be there or can it be taken care of by people closer to home? We have five members licensed to drive our truck but a small brigade can be short of numbers on any given day. On the other hand, I can leave work short if I turn out with the brigade. It’s a balancing act.
“If it’s a total fire ban or a code red day though, my boss recognises that there’s an added urgency there.”
Mick’s boss, Laminex branch sales manager Rob Jubber, doesn’t doubt that Mick will do the right thing by the business. “As an employee, Mick is first class,” says Rob. “He’s my right-hand man but we also recognise that people like Mick are valued outside the company. We don’t question that. It’s a privilege for us to have him working here and we wouldn’t dare stand in the way of his volunteer work.
“Mick turns out to car accidents so he sees some grim things. His first thought, though, is always to call and let me know that he’s been out at an incident all night so he’ll be in a bit late. Sometimes I tell him not to come in and it’s treated as a normal work day, pay wise.”
Mick appreciates the opportunity to talk things through both at work and within the brigade and will always let Rob know if he’s attended a fatality. The brutal reality of attending a vehicle accident close to home is that the victim is likely to be a local who brigade members know.
“I don’t hide that from Rob,” says Mick. “The brigade always debriefs after an incident to get everything out in the open. There’s support available through CFA and through work and I always encourage my members to take advantage of counselling. You’re never alone.”
Mt Camel brigade has 13 active members and, on average, turns out between 15 and 20 times a year. This past year has been busier, however, with 27 calls since July 2012.